Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog

Sacrifice reminder


Friday 13th December, Aberystwyth Arts Centre (quietest spot), 6pm…. See you there

p.s. maybe we can get Carl to comment on this chapter on the blog – in the context of the book he’s editing that it comes from?

pps – thanks Carl for the comments below!

Author: masonk4

Academic, activist, clown, rebel, insurgent...

3 thoughts on “Sacrifice reminder

  1. Thanks Kelvin! Glad to hear you are reading this chapter. The book is now out (available in all good bookstores) and it is actually Routledge’s ‘book of the month’ for December (in politics). Whatever that means. See http://www.routledge.com/politics/articles/book_of_the_month_critical_environmental_politics/ There is also a pretty cringe-worthy ‘interview’ with me on that page, which might also function as a set of thoughts to introduce this chapter.

    Basically I asked Paul to write this chapter because I loved his previous work on greenpeace and the environmental movement. One of his arguments has been that cultural change is at the heart of what the environmental movement should be about. In this light, I really like this chapter on the virtues of sacrifice, and positioning sacrifice as one of the potentially distinctive contributions of environmentalism compared to many other ‘isms’ (although the religious links are interesting and worth discussing…). As a political strategy or slogan, I don’t know… I’d be interested to know what you think.

    On the book more generally, here are a few passages culled from the introduction:

    “The range of concepts covered is also extensive, including terms that have been central to many of the social science disciplines for a long time (such as citizenship, commodification, consumption, feminism, justice, movements, science, security, the state, summits, and technology), terms that have been at the heart of environmental politics for many years (including biodiversity, climate change, conservation, eco-centrism, limits, localism, resources, sacrifice, and sustainability), and terms that have been introduced to these literatures and debates more recently (biopolitics, governance, governmentality, hybridity, posthumanism, risk, and vulnerability).

    There was an explicit decision, however, not to include a long list of ‘issue-based’ chapters on topics such as water, food, forests, minerals, fish, chemicals, nuclear power, and so on. Rather, the volume aims to take a more cross-cutting approach to the sorts of analytical concepts that will enable researchers to see these familiar issues in different ways. The chapters are therefore tools, rather than the ‘problems’ or issues on which the tools must work.

    In each chapter the authors were asked to provide an introduction to the concept for those new to the field—including undergraduate and postgraduate students—as well as to draw connections between concepts and thinkers that might be provocative or illuminating for more established researchers in the field. They were also asked to reflect upon some of the following questions or issues: How has this concept commonly been used in the study of environmental politics? In what sense is this concept critical? What are some of the most significant ideas or arguments that this concept raises? What critical thinkers have deployed this concept? What are some of the most significant pieces of research that have used this concept? How might this concept be used to make a critical intervention into environmental politics? To what sorts of research agendas might such critical interventions lead?

    To facilitate this reflection, and to provide a flexible framework around which to organise the volume as a whole as well as the chapters, each chapter considers these questions under some combination of the headings ‘Core Ideas’, ‘Key Thinkers’, and ‘Critical Potential’. The chapters include suggested further reading, and most provide useful internet links. Connections between chapters have also been encouraged throughout; in the spirit of interconnected ecosystems and rhizome structures, no concept can really be understood in isolation. The pointers to other chapters that recur throughout the volume are exactly that—suggested additional chapters to pursue related lines of enquiry, or different perspectives on the concepts, thinkers, and cases discussed.

    There is, of course, a tension at the heart of a volume such as this: what is presented here as critical may become system-reinforcing when viewed from another perspective, and most of the concepts here have the potential to be conservative as well as critical. This is true of environmentalism more broadly (see Harvey 1996: 172). In his classic collection titled The Development Dictionary (which, although published more than 20 years ago, is in many respects the inspiration for this volume), Wolfgang Sachs noted the ‘successful ambivalence’ at the heart of the ecology movement (1992: 31). It is a movement that has drawn upon hard science as well as quasi-spiritual mysticism (Barry 2001; Beck 1995; Foucault 1997: 295). Environmentalism can act as a stimulus to radical system change, or conservation and precaution. It asserts the value of the small and the local and the traditional, as well as the global, the systemic and the macro. This ambivalence is doubtlessly reflected in the chapters that follow. Whether any of these concepts have the key to unlock the paradox in which modern society and the environmental movement finds itself is unclear, and perhaps ultimately doubtful. But they certainly demonstrate that there is considerable potential within the field of critical environmental politics to make the familiar appear strange and bring the unfamiliar into clearer focus.”

    Wish I could be there with you to discuss it – do please let me know what you think. Missing you all, and Aber, and best wishes for the holiday season to everyone.


  2. Thanks Carl! And also thanks for letting us distribute the chapter to people who want to come to the reading group. For anyone who does, please email myself or Kelvin (email in last blog post) to request a copy.

  3. Please note change of venue – now at the Arts Centre, thanks!

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